Living Reflections

Learning to Love Honest Criticism

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.
Proverbs 28:23 (NLT) 

I received a sweet thank you card from a dear friend this week thanking me for always being brave enough to speak the truth to her. I had no idea how “life-changing” my words had been to her, but from the very beginning of our relationship we had an agreement to always be honest with one another – even if our honesty hurt or upset the other person. We both agreed that life is too short (and hard enough already) to not be honest about the stinky crap others want to mask with flowery compliments and fancy platitudes.

Sometimes, it’s hard to be honest with people on issues related to them (about them); I think it’s because we are afraid of how they might react, or that we’ll hurt their feelings. We say things to excuse ourselves – and our responsibility – like, “I don’t want to rock the boat,” or “It’s not my place…”

But what if it is our place? What if God positioned us to be that voice of reason? What if rocking the boat is the exact jostle our loved ones need to be rocked enough to reach out for help, or to see things from a different perspective? Rather than say things that make them feel like they are justified in their actions or that they have a right to behave/think/talk that way, what if we offered honest criticism?

Please hear me. I’m not talking about being judgmental and acting like you know what is going to be best for them. But I am talking about loving others enough to speak up when something stirs in your heart to do so. But you have to be careful.

And you have to do it in and out of LOVE.

Because, let’s be real: we all want to be right. We all want others to see things from our perspective and agree that we are in the right. I mean, nobody wants to be wrong. There’s nothing enjoyable about being wrong – especially when it’s something we are passionate about – making it even more difficult to see things clearly and without bias.

Nobody wants to be wrong. When we’re wrong we often feel ashamed, less than…a failure.

When I am wrong, I feel unlovable.

I’m not saying that’s right or wrong…it’s just how I feel.

Maybe that is what makes honesty so hard sometimes. Because we love the person so much, we never want to say something that causes them pain.

But if we love them that much, how can we not?

Not too long ago a very brave friend did this for me. I was going through a difficult situation, and was trying to figure out the “why” in all of it. In my own self-preservation, I’d made some judgements on others involved; somehow, that seemed to make it easier, even though it didn’t make me feel any better.

This very brave and wise friend of mine called me out on my stinkin’ thinkin’. Right there in her kitchen, she called me out on my thoughts, and challenged me to think them over and repent. She knew it was hard for me to hear, but she loved me enough to not leave me there with those poisonous thoughts.

Sure it hurt, and I didn’t want to hear it…but I needed to. I needed someone else to point out to me what my pride was overshadowing.

I’m so grateful she loved me enough to rock the boat.

I know it’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

I think we can speak the truth to others when we have permission to do so. We can start with something as simple as, “Can I tell you something?” or “Can I be honest with you? Even if it makes you mad, or hurts you? Are you willing to listen?” I mean, isn’t that what Jesus is saying to Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:40? Wasn’t Jesus always looking for those teachable moments to save someone from the poison in their heart?

Jesus didn’t speak up to point out flaws in Simon – He spoke up to point out flaws in Simon’s thinking – thoughts that were tainted by the judgements in his heart.

The heart is always the issue with Jesus. And it should be for us, too. Not that we can see or know another’s heart or motives, but we can know our own. And if Holy Spirit is stirring in us to speak up, then we need to pray for the wisdom, courage, patience, timing and words to do so.

Jesus is fearless when it comes to being honest about what He sees. Oh that we would have that same courage to speak the truth IN LOVE.

I am eternally grateful for the loved ones in my life who are courageous enough to give me honest criticism. I believe when we grant others permission to be honest with us (about us), we are really giving Holy Spirit permission to burn off anything in us that is keeping us from His best. I know it’s not always pleasant to hear hard truths about yourself – and it’s okay to be upset or sad or whatever – but when we hear them, the first thing we need to do is take those words back to Jesus! We need to ask Him what He thinks about all of it.

I can guarantee, when we are still and quiet enough to listen, Holy Spirit is kind enough to walk us through all of it and help us sift out the crap that needs addressing. He’s just really good like that.

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